Averitable army of police at all levels – from very local to federal – was dedicated to stopping the recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks on local synagogues, arresting the perpetrators, and protecting the community.
The cooperation between law enforcement and the Jewish community was critical in protecting the community.
Technology that only recently came “on line” helped break the case for police.
These are among the interesting facts that came to light during The Jewish Standard’s 45-minute interview with Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli (which begins on page 6).
It was most heartening to learn, for example, that dozens of law enforcement personnel were directly involved in the investigation that led to the arrest of two suspects.
We take solace in knowing that escalating hate crimes are taken as seriously here as is the murder of a police officer (in this case, the shooting death in 2003 of 18-year Fair Lawn police veteran Mary Ann Collura).
We also take solace in learning how proactive law enforcement was in protecting the community. Synagogues were being attacked and, so, police patrols were increased; that is as it should be. As the incidents escalated, however, police began to anticipate the different ways that escalation could proceed. As a result, they quietly began paying closer attention to the various heavily Jewish neighborhoods in Bergen and Passaic counties. There was no evidence to suggest that homes would be attacked, but law enforcement agencies in both counties and the state level were not taking any chances. We are grateful for that effort. We are appreciative, as well, that this was done “below the radar,” so to speak. Our neighborhoods were under watchful eyes, but as long as the threat remained hypothetical, we were not being made to worry unduly.
The investigation itself could be titled “CSI-Bergen.” Forensic scientists breaking down the specific components of a bomb; register receipts with specific purchases listed; the matching of receipts to components; security cameras continuously recording date-and-time-stamped digital images; data recovery on computer hard drives that were ostensibly wiped clean; the ability to deliver a suspect’s photograph to tens of thousands of people in an instant – it is hard to imagine solving this series of crimes or mounting a successful prosecution without these tools, some of which were not available to law enforcement just 20 years ago. Technology has its down sides. This was not one of them.
Communal cooperation was critical. As Molinelli states, communities (including ours at times, although he was diplomatic enough not to say so) often view law enforcement with suspicion, and are unwilling to cooperate. This time, at least, our community worked with law enforcement, and we all are the better for it.
Molinelli was especially grateful, he said, to the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (JCRC) and to the New Jersey region of the Ant-Defamation League (ADL) for their help. To hear him tell it, these two organizations played a vital role in keeping the community focused, informed, and, most important, calm. They did “a wonderful job in helping to ease concerns in the community,” Molinelli said. Two people in particular stand out – the JCRC’s Joy Kurland and the ADL’s Etzion Neuer. We join in the praise and offer our thanks.
Perhaps most enlightening was learning that there is no such thing as information that is too trivial, such as the location of an eruv.
“If I could ask you to take something back to your community,” Molinelli said, “one thing I didn’t know and I wish I would have known: I wish I would have known…where all the installed eruvs are, in all of Bergen County.”
Knowing where an eruv is means knowing where Jews live.
Perhaps we need to put our collective heads together and consider what other trivial-sounding information law enforcement may need to keep us safe.
May our community never again be confronted by hate crimes of any kind, much less the escalating variety. We rest easier, however, knowing that there is a law enforcement army out there to protect us if it does.